Thursday, January 6, 2011
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Keys for Texas A&M
By David Ubben
1. Don't kick it to Patrick Peterson. Just don't. LSU's return man ranks fourth nationally with over 16 yards per punt return, and has taken a pair of punts back for touchdowns already this year. He also ranks eighth nationally in kick return yardage, averaging just under 30 yards a return. If the Aggies are into giving up a game-changing return for points in what should be a low-scoring game, then by all means, punt Peterson the ball. If not, just kick it out of bounds or perfect a rugby kick. Matt Dodge of the New York Giants found out earlier this year what can happen if you give a playmaker an opportunity. Peterson is no DeSean Jackson, but he's pretty good. The Aggies better not give him a chance to prove it.
2. Don't force the ball to Jeff Fuller. Perhaps we're a little Peterson-centric here, but throwing the ball up to Jeff Fuller and hoping the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder comes down with it works quite a bit against the majority of Big 12 corners. Here's guessing it won't against Peterson, a 6-foot-1, 222-pound cornerback who will be as physical with Fuller as any corner he's seen all year. Maybe they'll sneak in a reception -- Fuller did beat Prince Amukamara once against Nebraska for a clean 36-yard catch, his only catch of the night -- but trying to throw a jump ball will more often result in a wasted down at best and a turnover at worst. Peterson picked off four passes this year. The offensive line has to give Ryan Tannehill time to get the ball underneath to Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu.
3. Don't forget Ryan Tannehill has legs. Tannehill has played receiver for most of the past two seasons, and he can get out and run if he gets a chance. Against a stingy defense, if there's space, Tannehill should tuck it and run. The Tigers gave up 217 rushing yards to Cam Newton in a loss earlier this year. Tannehill, of course, is no Cam Newton, but the Aggies will have to scrap for yards. Tannehill may take some punishment for venturing into the next level of the defense, but he's a big guy who can take it. Mississippi State's Chris Relf ran seven times for 46 yards. West Virginia's Geno Smith didn't run much or well, finishing with just 10 yards on five carries. LSU hasn't seen a ton of mobile quarterbacks, but Relf and Newton had success. If Tannehill can follow their lead without running too much to the detriment of the passing game, it could open up plenty of other opportunities for the offense. Yards will be precious in this game, and Texas A&M needs to earn them any way it can.